Michael Brito is one of the more experienced business-to-business (B2B) influence marketing practitioners in the world. He is the executive vice-president for the Zeno Group and has spent almost two decades building relationships for technology and SaaS companies in the Bay Area and around the world. His ideas and strategies around business-to-business influence marketing are bleeding edge to say the least.
Michael and I dive into some of the granularity he uses in finding influencers for his clients, but also what insights the influencers tell him that better informs his client’s overall marketing. We also talk about the challenges of using B2B thinking in the B2C space in a very revealing episode of Winfluence.
Give the episode a listen, then jump over and give us a rating on iTunes!
Winfluence – The Influence Marketing Podcast is a companion piece to my forthcoming influencer marketing book, Winfluence: Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand, set to publish in early 2021 from Entrepreneur Press. I interview the Who’s Who of Influencer Marketing weekly — from brand managers to software creators, and from agency strategists to influencers themselves. If you know someone who should be a guest on the show, shoot me an email at jason – at – jasonfalls – dot – com.
Winfluence Podcast – Michael Brito Transcript
Jason Falls 0:31
Hello again friends thanks for listening to Winfluence – The Influence Marketing Podcast. Today, Michael Brito joins me. He’s the Executive Vice President at Zeno Group which is a global public relations firm, squarely grounded in the digital space. They have offices in 22 markets around the world. Brito operates out of its Bay Area operations where he’s been in the middle of tech and startup digital and social media for quite some time.
Jason Falls 0:55
You may know Michael as @britopian on Twitter or in other places on line or as the author of two books, Your Brand, The Next Media Company and Smart Business, Social Business, a playbook for social media in your organization at Zeno. Brito leads strategy on a lot of B2B influence marketing campaigns. And he gets deep into an almost scientific deception of social cues and social listening to form insights that inform who your influencers are, what they can tell you about your plans for media relations. You can make content marketing decisions based on the insights that he minds out of the conversations. And then of course, how connecting with those influencers can drive massive movements of adoption awareness, and sales for your company. He works a lot in the B2B space, but he’s very familiar with B2C as well.
Jason Falls 1:48
It’s always fun to talk shop with Michael Brito. So let’s listen into that chat here on Winfluence.
Jason Falls 1:59
B2B influencer marketing is one of those sort of things that a lot of people who don’t spend a lot of time in B2B don’t even consider B2B influencer marketing to be a thing they don’t realize that, you know, influencers are more than just fashion people on Instagram or you know, stunt people on YouTube. But Michael Brito has been doing, you know, B2B influencer marketing literally for more than a decade in lots of ways because he’s got a PR background. He’s got a digital background, a social media background. Michael, tell me how big the B2B influencer marketing world is and how big is the opportunity that’s not being mined right now.
Michael Brito 2:42
It’s huge man. It’s um, you know, it bugs me because the media like Adweek and you know, all these other publications. They’re always talking about Tik-Tok influencers and Snapchat influencers. And it’s hot, it’s sexy, right? It’s the new thing, but they very rarely give any love to B2B influencers and By the way, it’s a huge, huge industry, we’re talking millions of dollars, I have several clients who are paying upwards to the amount of anywhere between $30,000 to $70,000 per month on influencer marketing and within kind of the B2B ecosystem. And it’s it’s a huge opportunity. You know, I think a lot of brands who are still out there publishing on social media, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on wherever, wherever, you know, they’re missing out if they’re not incorporating influencer marketing, because the reality is buyers B2B buyer specifically. They ignore brands. They ignore the press releases, they ignore the product pages and specs. What they don’t ignore are third party endorsements from people like themselves. And within B2B influencer marketing, most of the influencers are technology professionals. So there’s a huge opportunity to influence purchase behavior within the B2B ecosystem and also amplify your message. Right amplify your message get get partner with influencers to co collaborate on and storytell around different areas of your business, usually more topical based, right? You don’t want to focus programs that are all about me and my business and my products. But if you are in the security space are in the AI space, you co create content related to AI or security or 5g or whatever it is.
Jason Falls 4:25
So when you talk about, you know, security and AI and whatnot, I think there’s a lot of people out there who when they, when they do start to think about B2B marketing, especially with influencers they get that from a SaaS perspective, you know, what there’s technology and software as a service companies out there have for forever and a day leveraged, you know, influencers within their space to do webinars and seminars and lead gen stuff. So that makes sense to people. But talk to me a little bit more about the opportunity outside of the technology space, because I know in other b2b areas, whether It would be shipping and logistics or healthcare or finance from a B2B perspective or even construction industries like that. It are we were looking at an untapped landscape, aren’t we?
Michael Brito 5:11
We are and all of those industries you named, there are influencers in each of those industries. And when I say influencers, it’s not not your traditional media, right? Sometimes you can, you can, you can put traditional media journalists, analysts second and third tier, you know, from analyst firms in that bucket. But the reality is, the majority of them are subject matter experts or people who have worked in the industry and are now consultants and have a point of view. And they have they have a large enough community or people who follow them to get their voice amplified to start getting on the radar of people like myself who are always looking for and using different methodologies and technology to find influencers based on certain you know, core parameters, and and leveraging an engagement opportunity.
Michael Brito 5:58
And I think the SAS I, you know, the SAS Comment you made is interesting because that does happen but it’s funny because when I look at influencer marketing within the B2B space, I kind of categorize it into two different areas. There’s the organic influencer quote unquote engagement and then there’s paid influencer marketing. And I think they they both work better together, but they can also be both work separately and independently and be successful. And when I was talking about earlier the idea where brands are publishing, you know, content that’s not generating any engagement or any clicks or whatever, it’s because they’re not there. They’re still thinking about social media as that platform you know, dude, you and I’ve been in this space for years, you know, and I cannot believe we still have this conversation today is 2020 and and companies still don’t get it you know. And so, when when I when I talk about organic influencer marketing, I talk about I’m thinking about listening to a core group of influencers regardless of what industry healthcare, construction, supply chain oil and gas … listening to what they’re saying, what’s top of mind for them, and using that intelligence to create content, that that is relevant to what they’re saying and doing so at the drop of a dime in a heartbeat.
Michael Brito 7:12
It’s kind of like the whole Oreo tweet, right? During the Super Bowl back in the day. But it’s it’s listening to a smaller subset of influencers. You know, we’re talking 5, 10, 15 up to 100 influencers, that you’re listening to understanding what they’re sharing what they’re talking about what trying to predict what might be important to them next, and then create content that is that is either a targeted towards them or in collaborate in collaboration with them. And that’s organic influencer marketing. It’s it’s, you know, there’s no formal program, you’re not reaching out picking up the phone and giving them a call. You’re not inviting them to your company headquarters. You’re not sending them any product. You’re not asking them for a blog post. It’s simply listening to what they’re saying and engaging with that content.
Michael Brito 7:56
Now, there’s another piece of it. I think that’s important to add, Jason I’m done with this question at least, which is the idea that you don’t even need a formal program to have a b2b influencer program. In other words, you don’t need to engage at all with any influencers and still have a successful program. Because when I think about influencers, they are typically the ones that are driving the conversation, right. They are the movers and shakers, the content creators, their content, you know, ranks extremely well in Google, if not better than everybody else’s. And people listen to what they’re saying. If you can pivot your brand, if I’m listening to a group of influencers in any sector, and I can understand what they’re saying, and start to incorporate that and replicate that language into my own media, my social media, my PR work, everything that I’m doing, all of a sudden they become that much more relevant to them as influencers, but also to people who follow what they’re saying. So it requires zero engagement, other than listening and then having the ability to shift your name narrative shift your content in a way that met, excuse me, matching what it is they’re saying.
Jason Falls 9:06
So is it? Is it a process of imitation? Or is it a process of building your own influence from your brand perspective?
Michael Brito 9:14
That’s a great question. I think it’s, it’s imitation to the extent of, at a very tactical level, you’re using the same vernacular that they’re using. Great. Here’s a great example. You’ve heard the concept of digital workplace, and you’ve probably heard of digital work workforce. Now there are two separate, you know, hashtags buzzwords, that that are being used in the media, very similar to digital transformation and the future of work. A lot of companies are using both of those synonymously. And the reality is, they mean actually two very different things. digital workplace is more focused towards HR, HR, HCM software, you know, change management, employee engagement, whereas digital workplace is the conversation we’re having today about remote workforce or automation. or other things of that nature. And so most brands don’t know that they just see a hashtag, and then they just jump on the bandwagon. But if you monitor your influencers and understand what they’re using, and then imitate it to an extent of the of the language, but ensuring that you are, are telling it in a way that’s different from your competitors, that certainly aligned to your brand, that then now then you have are building your own influence, but you’re leveraging the research of influencers to, you know, become that much more relevant.
Jason Falls 10:32
So that I’m totally on board with that I love I love how you how you carve that out, I want to go back to a kind of a nuance that you threw out there earlier. And and backtrack a little bit. Because it sounds to me like what you’re talking about is identifying, obviously, a small group of people in a given niche a given vertical, that you know, have some sort of influence and they’re probably going to have to have some sort of on Online influence, because you’ve got to be able to find them using these listening tools and things like that. But what about the influential, influential, influential people if I could speak? What about the influential people who aren’t necessarily the big online folks, the people who are industry experts, because they’ve published a book or they’ve published a, you know, a report, or they do research, or they’re a college professor that happens to have expertise on this? What about identifying that group of the what I would call the offline influencers? Is it is it as simple as just listening for mentions of those people and then tracking them down? Or is there some other way to triangulate and figure out who really are the influencers, not just people who have online influence?
Michael Brito 11:43
That’s a great question. Very difficult to find influencers who don’t have a social footprint. It’s not impossible, though, you know, you mentioned academia You know, there’s within most not not just larger, you know, pristine colleges, but every even community colleges you have, you know, professors In mathematics, who are influential in data science, you have professors in history who are influential in US politics. So I think it you know, it’s it’s hard to find these people, and you have to kind of be a subject matter expert within the vertical that you’re looking at, in order to understand that, yes, there may not necessarily be, you know, influential doctors or physicians, which, by the way, physicians are huge on online. I mean, there’s over a million active physicians across neurology, you know, every, you know, disease state that you can think of every practice area you can think of, that are online, but there are some that are offline that are influential within the medical journals and the medical boards, right. So I think you have to be you have to have a level of proficiency and understanding of the of the vertical that you’re working in to even understand that there might even be influencers, who you can’t find using online tools. Now. What I like to do is a good reference point for finding influencers who may not have their own Twitter account or may not be active on LinkedIn is looking at media mentions of their name. So are they quoted in the news in the media? And if their name is john smith, well, good luck, it’s gonna be a hard time finding them. But if you know, usually that’s not the case. But if you can, you can, you know, use a brand watch or use a social listening tool to, you know, do a name, you know, build a Boolean query around somebody’s name, you could start to map and understand how often they’re being quoted by the traditional business media or, you know, trade verticals or even local media. And that’s a great way to start finding those influential people who don’t have their own presence.
Jason Falls 13:43
So, I love I love how you kind of roll that out there with a couple of different categories because one of the fascinating things I’ve always found about how you approach influence marketing, especially in the B2B space, but how you’ve always sort of approached a lot of digital marketing is, you know, for the last 50 15 years we’ve been talking about things like social listening, we’ve been talking about things like influencer marketing tools, you have a tendency, though to bring the whole arsenal to the table and orchestrate them in a way that makes a ton of sense. So my guess is is when you are sitting down with a new client to map out influencer marketing, it’s not. Let’s go get an influence marketing tool and see who’s influential in this area. My guess is you’re starting probably with social listing and building from there, am I right?
Michael Brito 14:28
Yes. And I never ever mentioned the tools that I use, because the problem with that is, you know, a lot of times a client might say, Oh, we let’s just sign up with Brandwatch, or Traackr, or Onalytica, and we can do it ourselves. And the reality is that they can’t because the majority of social listening and analytics in general is human curated, right, you have to have someone who’s looking at the data you cannot just rely 100% on a Traackr or Onalytica, or from a socialistic standpoint, you know, a Brandwatch or Netbase Because it only surfaces so much it surfaces data, not insights. The insights come from the human curation of the data or the analysis that you know that where the person actually clicks through and is reading what they’re reading, and making sense of it and being able to formulate a hypothesis and then come to the table with the recommendation. And so, you’re right, I do come to the table with everything, and it does start with social listening. But more importantly, it starts with audience listening, because here’s the biggest difference and here’s, here’s what I hate about lists. So many lists and you’ve been on your share list, you’re still probably on every list at least every other week. Right? And the problem with lists is that they’re topical based, right? They’ll say okay, who are the top the top influencers in content marketing, right? You come up, you know, Jay Baer comes up and you know, everybody else the same players often come up. And you know, the but the problem with that and not that you’re not influential, but the problem with looking at it that way is you’re right there you You’re influential, you know, these lists are important. But it’s but a more important and I think a more effective way to do it is find the audience you’re trying to reach first. So if you’re trying to reach, you know, SMBs, or it decision makers, or developers or engineers or nurses or, you know, healthcare workers or whoever it is, you build the audience first. And then through social listening, you can start to see and understand, affinities and mentioned. So affinities being okay, you know, of my audience of, you know, 1500 millennials in Oregon who wear Birkenstocks, and, you know, you know, don’t shave their underarms, they have a tendency of following, you know, this person who may not be topical based influencer that you’re looking for. And that’s where the key is that that is the where you find those unexpected influencers who are influencing an audience. And that’s the way that I like to do it because that to me is more effective, and usually the results are exponentially higher.
Jason Falls 16:59
So let me get … Let me give the people out there listening a little bit of an example. And I’ve used this example before in some talks and whatnot. But so if I am Adrian Parker, who’s another guest, we’re going to have here on the show at Patron Tequila. I’ve got a bunch of options on how I might analyze influencers, I might say, okay, who’s influential as a cocktail blogger Instagrammer, who’s making cocktails on YouTube and wherever. So I’ve got a cocktail person, right? Who’s an influencer might also say, okay, who knows a lot about about tequila is a big tequila fan, and blogs about tequila and writes about tequila and posts Instagram posts about their favorite tequila is. So we’ve got tequila as the topic. We’ve got cocktails as the topic, then of course, if he’s responsible, which he is because he’s smart. He’s gonna have bartenders as an influencer, because bartenders are the biggest influencer in the spirit space. And most people at that point would draw a line and say, Okay, well he’s got, you know, couple audiences to choose from there he can go after. But here’s where I would would extend that further. And I know Adrian would too, because he’s done it. What about people out there who are big tequila fans who don’t write about tequila, who don’t post Instagram posts about tequila, who that’s not their topic, but they still have influenced like, Jay Baer, someone you already mentioned. He loves tequila, every now and then he’ll post about a new tequila he tried on Instagram. Well, Jay Baer might not be in your topical lists of tequila influencers, but Jay Bear’s got 3 or 400,000 followers online, and if he says anything about tequila, it’s gonna reach a lot of people. So that’s sort of bringing it what Michael just said, bringing it all to to the the reality of the situation is you’ve got to think about influencer marketing beyond the topic. And I think that’s what you were trying to say there. Michael right.
Michael Brito 18:51
Yeah, that’s a great point. And you know, I would also add by by the way agents have great guy and he’s I’ve known him for years and you know, he’s he’s, you know, doing great things. And where he’s working. So I think that from a from a tequila, you know, the whole conversation around that the problem with well, going back to the whole topical based conversation, you know, there’s so much how do I put this, you know, with the rise of bots and, you know, the ability for, you know, you to purchase influencers? I mean, I mean, purchase followers rather, it just it doesn’t just happen on the on the consumer side, it doesn’t it doesn’t happen with people who are, you know, have YouTube subscribers who aren’t real people. It also happens on on b2b and technology. I mean, believe me, it happens. And I think that, you know, when you approach it from an audience standpoint, you begin to start to really show true influence over people who may and it may not be a large group of people, but it’s the right customers, the right person you’re trying to reach. And I think what we’re talking about now is we’re kind of straddling the line of what I would call, you know, customer advocacy, right? Because everyone is influential to a point, right? We all have circles of influence, some more than others. You may not be able to get like a Walt Mosberg who you know, or, you know, Jeremiah Owyang, who are influential in their own regards over different certain things. You know, you can get other people and get more of them, right. So you begin to build communities of advocates. And it’s the same process. It’s it’s finding your community of people, whether it’s 10 influencers, or 15,000, Millennials who are influential in Birkenstocks and putting them into a panel, and listening to what they’re saying, and using that as a real time focus group to create content, and then you’re going to find the ones who are more influential than others. And those are the ones that you can partner with. Again, there was a trend a while back a couple years ago, where a lot of these brands were focusing less on it was an Adweek article, I believe, focusing less on those, you know, followers like Kim Kardashian and those with multi you know, several million followers and focus on the smaller micro influencers who may only have 1000 followers, but they’re highly influential within their little communities. Absolutely.
Jason Falls 21:02
So the granularity with which you not only determine who the influencers that you want to use are, but with that which you use to understand the conversation around the various topics that your b2b clients are, are interested in or need to be influential within is a granularity and a focus that I think is very specific to b2b, I wonder, and I’ll let you wax poetic on it. How successful could be to see companies be if they took that kind of approach to their influence marketing.
Michael Brito 21:37
The problem with with that is, it’s hard to get data from like a tick tock or a Snapchat, you know, even Facebook, you don’t need the data isn’t public, per se, whereas with Twitter, you know, which is the majority b2b conversations are, I mean, have been growing exponentially for years on Twitter, and that’s a completely wide open data data source, right. You can look at everything for the last year. No 13 years or so, since Twitter’s been around, and you can start to generate insights. Right. So, now less influencers on the consumer side are using Twitter. However, since COVID-19, that is slightly changing. We’re starting to see people, you know, it’s it’s typically a place where people get their news, right, the younger generations, but but it’s hard to get those insights with, you know, on Instagram, you know, Facebook and LinkedIn is 100% completely closed off. Right? So, I think that, that it’s, it’s, you might have to use media data to start finding these people meaning, you know, the traditional media, and what they’re publishing online, and, you know, finding, you know, those those media publications that are that are targeted or cater towards, you know, you know, Gen, Gen Z, and you know, younger millennials, and begin to use that as your data source to do what I was saying, which is listening to the conversation or in some cases, the media, media and what they’re publishing and begin to make sense of it and cluster the conference. And figure out how your brand can tap into it. And, you know, from there, you know, it’s there’s a lot of tools out there that find influencers, right, whether it’s creator IQ or, you know, there’s hundreds of these social platforms for consumer marketing, which which gives you engagement numbers, it gives you growth numbers and all that where you can find the topical base influencers. Again, it’s it’s a little bit it’s it’s not as effective in my opinion, but it’s still effective to the extent of you can begin to move the needle and begin to generate, you know, and align your KPIs that way.
Jason Falls 23:33
So you mentioned that COVID has changed the sort of outlook on Twitter a bit. I wonder if there are other areas that you’ve seen where you know, the fact that you know, we’re many of us are still working from home and or quarantined and or who knows what’s going to happen over the next few months. I wonder if there are other changes that you’ve seen besides sort of the use of that one particular tool. Now that consumer behavior and business behavior has had to change because of the pandemic. What’s different now that that we weren’t talking about seven months ago.
Michael Brito 24:03
I think that B2B on TikTok is becoming a thing. I really do. I mean, I, I’m always I’m the type of person you know, I don’t when experts come out and say, you know, I’m a snapchat expert, and every company’s been on Snapchat or you know, now it’s TikTok, you know, I’m always very skeptical of people like that. We know many of the same people. We’re talking about the same people here. But but i think that you know, with TikTok, and the consumerization of business, right, meaning everybody’s human, you know, the fact that we can get on a conference call on video and, you know, our, with our kids being in the background, it’s okay, like, six months ago was like, weird people would be like, you know, put yourself on mute. Now, it’s like a generally accepted behavior. And I think that that now is becoming it’s trickling down because we’re we’re now doing programs for healthcare clients who are building programs, executive meaning, executive influencer. So we do a lot of What we call you know influencer marketing, but for executives where we are building the profile of executives and we’re we’re mapping influencers with executives and we’re like facilitating conversations in social. And one of the things that we’re doing is we’re testing Snapchat or excuse me, TikTok as a way to story tell from an from an executive perspective, who you know is has the has the personality and charm to do it, and it’s working. It’s crazy. I never thought it would, but it is.
Jason Falls 25:28
That’s amazing. Yeah, I wouldn’t have thought TikTok would be a place for B2B but I mean, who knows? At first I thought TikTok wouldn’t be a place for anybody over the age of 12 and it turned out to be wrong layer two so that’s that’s interesting. Well have you done any any in depth you know dives yet into the the Facebook slash Instagram answer to tick tock and started looking looking at that yet.
Michael Brito 25:53
I have not know I’m staying away from it right now. I just I don’t I don’t have the mental capacity to learn. A new platform and yet creating a profile so not yet. I will. I will.
Jason Falls 26:05
That’s a good that’s a that’s a good take on it. I approve of that message.
Jason Falls 26:12
Okay, so Michael, obviously, you’re you’re at the the Zeno Group, and a lot of people know where to find you online. But in case they don’t in case they want to connect with you. Where can people connect with Michael Brito?
Michael Brito 26:25
You know, I mean, Twitter is my still my go to, you know, platform. It’s where I spend most of my time. So Twitter @britopian — B-R-I-T-O-P-I-A-N. Or you can LinkedIn is always a place to I’ve been I’ve been publishing a lot more they’re been getting a lot of engagement there. So but conversationally, you know, Twitter is the place to do that. For connections and building building networks. You know, LinkedIn.
Jason Falls 26:47
Very good. Mike, man. Thanks for taking the time. This has been fun. Yeah, yeah.
Michael Brito 26:52
Good to talk to you, Jason. It’s been a while and I’m excited to read your book man really am.
Jason Falls 26:57
I’m excited for it to be out there for people to read. Let’s process as you knows takes for damn ever so let’s get this thing done man!
Michael Brito 27:05
Yes sir yes sir
Transcribed by otter.ai